Emotionally intelligent teams

Last month, we looked at high performing leadership teams. Emotionally intelligent behaviours underpin successful teams – they are the glue that enables teams to consistently achieve their purpose. So, this month, we build on the six main behaviours displayed by emotionally intelligent teams.

As you’ll see, one of the points is about being open to feedback, so I welcome any comments you may have.

Emotionally Intelligent Teams

“A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, set of performance goals and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.”
Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith

This definition correlates with my experience of successful teams: each of these components adds up so the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

A team is only as strong as its weakest link. Unsuccessful teams often comprise members who are empire-building or competing against each other. Successful teams truly collaborate, with team members that really support each other, to the point of anticipating the needs of fellow team members. They share accountability and exhibit the emotionally intelligent traits explained below:

The foundation for ‘Emotional Intelligence’ is self-regard and regard for others, and it underlies everything else. You should respect yourself and others equally, and communicate in an ‘I’m OK, you’re OK’ / adult-to-adult manner. That way you’re more likely to have open, challenging debates that move things forward. If you don’t respect yourself or other team members, you’ll be operating through a ‘one up’ or ‘one down’ filter that clouds your view.

For further information on this, please email me and I’ll send you a short Word document that gives more detail.

Trust is unlikely to happen if your team members haven’t had the chance to build a relationship first. It’s important to invest time face-to-face, especially for a new team, and even more so if your people are geographically dispersed. People need to get to know each other by talking about their interests as well as having work-related conversations. This builds trust and openness and a willingness to work together.

Trust equation

I like the ‘Trust Equation’ shown above (adapted from Maister et al, with thanks to one of my clients for introducing it to me).

  • Credibility is your WORDS
    Do you come across as competent at what you do? Are you articulate?
  • Reliability is your ACTIONS
    Are you consistent? Do you do what you say you will?
  • Intimacy is your EMOTIONS
    Do you share and give of yourself? Or are you solely task-focused?

Emotionally intelligent people are free and easy about connecting with others; they share their thoughts, feelings and perspective.

Note that if your Ego gets in the way, it cancels out all the others as it focuses on YOU not THEM.

As a leader, it’s important to develop an open culture with easy access to information and senior management.

Leaders should spend an equal amount of time with all their direct reports, to avoid creating an atmosphere of ‘in groups’ and ‘out groups’.

Tips for leading a team
The role of the team leader is to empower people: to set and communicate the direction clearly then let team members decide how to do it. Remain available to them. Anticipate and support their needs.

People don’t always listen effectively. We all get caught up in our passion to get our point across and steer the conversation in the direction we believe is right. In the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey describes five levels of listening:

  1. Hearing but ignoring
  2. Pretending to listen (“Yes”, “Oh”, “I see…”)
  3. Selective listening (choosing to hear only what we want to hear)
  4. Attentive listening, without evaluation (e.g. taking notes)
  5. Empathetic listening (with intent to understand the other person)

Empathetic listening means focusing on understanding the other person’s perspective and then integrating it with your own in a way that builds a win-win. True collaboration comes when each person’s view is understood and respected. Often, innovative ideas can spring out of opposing views, so being open to this will enable the optimal outcome.

A culture that’s open to feedback
It’s important to create an environment that encourages giving and receiving feedback in a supportive, constructive and positive way.

Tips for giving feedback
Have the positive intention of helping the other person to be their best. Be respectful of them. Think about how your feedback might land. Adapt your feedback style to suit their personality. Be courteous. Give them time to prepare. Talk to them privately, not in the open office. Support your feedback with data you’ve personally observed, not hearsay. Give them the opportunity to ask questions and respond. Be prepared to work with them, to help them interpret the feedback if they want to.

Tips for receiving feedback
Of course you can decide if you want to accept the feedback or not. But don’t get defensive. Keep an open mind and challenge yourself about whether the feedback could be valid. Observe yourself over the next few days and weeks to see if you do, in fact, behave as the feedback suggests.

If required, I can facilitate feedback sessions between team members. Depending on how established the team may be, I use the effective ‘speed feedback’ or ‘goldfish bowl’ approach. Please ask if you’d like more information.

Appreciating and embracing the diversity of style and experience
If your team comprises solely people with similar experience, or who have similar styles such as closely clustered Myers-Briggs types, there is less diversity of thought or approach. Although diversity can feel uncomfortable and lead to disagreement and conflict, it can also lead to more healthy and thorough debate and better outcomes. This links back to my previous articles about innovation and the leadership agility compass.

If you’re interested in exploring these ideas further, please email me. I’ll be happy to help.

Teams that learn together develop their relationships and willingness to collaborate. An environment where it’s OK to make mistakes is a great leveller.

As a team leader, if you focus some time on team development every time you get together, it will improve the effectiveness of the individual team members as well as the team overall. It also keeps team members fresh (as there’s a risk people get complacent if the team has been together for a while).

Note that all the team points above are skills that can be learned. Because learning takes place over time, ongoing coaching in a culture of lifelong learning is more effective than one-off training.